Electronic Election Fraud? Isn't That Just Fearmongering?
NO. Not anymore. An investigation conducted by the Ohio Secretary of State concluded that the 2004 Presidential election in fact was fraudulent enough that the state's electoral votes could have gone to the wrong person. Being a software developer, I've followed the "black box voting" issue for seven years now and am not surprised. I've read about the irregularities, reports of machine screwups, and even found some of the statistical anomalies, so this is an informed opinion: I do strongly suspect that the states of New Mexico and Ohio may well have given their electoral votes to the wrong person, and I think there's a chance that Florida's vote might have been played with as well--although the other two, in my opinion, are much more likely possibilities.
The misuse of copyright
There is something seriously wrong when a private company owns the machines and the code and won't allow anyone to review it for security and reliability. Intellectual property rights are all well and good, but we are talking about a national security issue here. NO, our nation's military isn't at risk, nor are there physical civilian targets for violence, but federal elections MUST be trustworthy. The fact is, there are so many accounts of "suspicious" behavior by the voting machine industry that our elections CANNOT be trusted by an impartial observer.
Software and hardware used by the military and intelligence agencies must be inspected in great detail and certified to be secure enough to be usable. There is actually a security ratings system for this called Common Criteria. Most federal agencies must buy Common Criteria-certified products for security needs; there is NO reason why election equipment should be exempt from that. Yet these companies have fought tooth and nail to keep their precious code from being looked at by ANYONE. They insist that we take them at their word when national security is at stake. What are they hiding, pray?
I've recently completed designs for several computer programs that WOULD be secure, reliable, and accountable -- and the hardware prototypes that these programs would run on. It is a full product line that would ensure the integrity of a vote from the moment it is created or cast to the point in time at which, by federal or state law, the votes cast in an election can be legally discarded. This includes, I must admit, a secure electronic voting machine. It would be nice if we could go back to paper ballots and 100% hand counting, but I do not think that's realistic. This is a society of instant gratification and I don't see that changing. So, if we must have instant results, let's at least make sure that they can be trusted.
If you are still in doubt, consider this hypothetical situation.
The setting is a computer science department in a university.
The computer network for the department goes down one night. After the systems have been rebooted and the network cleaned up, the network administrators discover that a program was running, and all it appeared to be doing was generating extraneous requests that jammed the network and eventually resulted in denial of service. The program was running from a particular student's university account. The department head takes the student to his office.
"A 'homemade' program running from your account was what took our system down," says the department head. "What do you have to say about this?"
"It couldn't have been my program," says the student.
"It was, though. We can prove it."
"Well, I didn't know it would do that, honestly."
"Are you sure that your program wasn't deliberately designed with this in mind?"
"Oh yes certainly, I wouldn't do something like that. My programs are all perfectly good."
"Good, let's prove it. I'd like to have a look at your program's source code."
The student looks alarmed. "Oh, I don't think so," he says, fumbling for something to say before settling on, "It's my intellectual property."
You're the department head. What would be your conclusion, and what would you do?